Veggies’ Popularity Is All in the Name

How do you make healthy food more popular? Start by giving it a yummy-sounding name, researchers say.

People are much more likely to choose good-for-you foods like broccoli or carrots if labeled with names that emphasize taste over nutritional value, according to Alia Crum, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, and her colleagues.

In previous research, Crum’s team found that Stanford students were far more likely to go for decadent-sounding veggies like “twisted citrus glazed carrots” over an equivalent option that might be labeled “dietetic carrots.” The key, however, is the food must actually be tasty, the new study confirms.

“This is radically different from our current cultural approach to healthy eating which, by focusing on health to the neglect of taste, inadvertently instills the mindset that healthy eating is tasteless and depriving,” Crum, senior author of the new report, said in a university news release.

“And yet in retrospect, it’s like, of course, why haven’t we been focusing on making healthy foods more delicious and indulgent all along?” she added.

In the new study, the researchers tracked food choices made by students enrolled across a network of 57 U.S. colleges and universities. The investigators looked at 71 vegetable dishes labeled with either taste-focused, health-focused or neutral names.

Students were 29% more likely to select veggies when taste was emphasized rather than health. And they were 14% more likely to consume vegetables that had a tasty-sounding name instead of a nondescript name, such as “orange vegetable.”

Diners also ended up eating nearly 40% more vegetables (by weight) when appetizing marketing was deployed, the findings showed.

Mouth-watering names increase a diner’s expectation of a yummy meal, Crum said. Certain key words — such as “garlic,” “ginger,” “roasted,” “sizzling,” and “tavern-style” — seem to do the trick, she noted.

Knowing this could make a difference in the effort to get people, particularly young people, to eat more healthfully, the study authors said.

According to study co-author Bradley Turnwald, “College students have among the lowest vegetable intake rates of all age groups. Students are learning to make food decisions for the first time in the midst of new stresses, environments and food options. It’s a critical window for establishing positive relationships with healthy eating.”

The report was published online in Psychological Science.

Source: HealthDay

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Opinion: We Don’t Control Our Weight

Dayna Lee-Baggley wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you’re willing, let’s try an experiment. I’m going to offer you two options, and I’d like you to pick the option that you think sounds more likely to be successful.

Option 1: Tomorrow’s weight will be 301 pounds, the day after that it will be 195 pounds, and the following day it will be 255 pounds.

Option 2: Tomorrow, go for a 10-minute walk, the day after that eat two servings of fruit, and the following day drink three glasses of water.

Which option would you be more likely to succeed with? Which option would anyone be more likely to succeed with? If you picked Option 2, you win!

Why would most of us pick Option 2 over Option 1? Option 1 involves an outcome (weight) and Option 2 involves a behavior (doing something). And as humans, we have much more control over our behavior than we do outcomes like weight. In fact, there’s mounting and convincing evidence that we don’t control our weight.

Now, this may seem hard to believe. Everything you’ve ever heard from the media, from your healthcare providers, from others in your life is that if you just work hard enough, if you just try long enough, you will be able to have a skinny body. But science tells us something different. We can influence our weight but we don’t have direct control.

Weight is actually influenced by more than 50 different processes, many of which we have no control over.

The figure in the top illustrates the factors that influence weight.

For example, weight is influenced by how much sleep you get, the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in your body, how many McDonald’s locations are in your neighborhood, the walkability of your city, your genetics, and your access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Most of these we have no direct control over. How much you eat and how much you exercise are only two small factors in weight.

This also has important implications for how to manage weight. If we focus on weight as the goal, at some point, we will feel like our efforts aren’t getting us to our goal. This is inevitable because we don’t control all the factors that influence weight. And when we feel like our efforts aren’t getting us to our goals, the most normal response is to give up trying and to not bother to try again.

This is an effect called “learned helplessness,” first described by Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues: when we feel we have no control, we just stop trying. Many of my patients living with obesity will describe trying over and over and over again to lose weight only to find themselves heavier than when they started. And often I will hear them say “and then I just gave up.” That’s learned helplessness. And once learned helplessness sets in it’s hard to undo.

But there is a way we can avoid learned helplessness: by focusing on behavior as a goal instead of weight as a goal. If you try harder to go for a walk, you’re much more likely to go for a walk, but if you try harder to “lose weight” you don’t necessarily lose more weight. In fact, the stress of trying to lose weight may increase the cortisol levels in your body and make it harder to lose weight.

So, if you’re working to manage your weight, think about setting behavioral goals: things that other people can see you do. Examples include going for a walk, eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, eating more whole foods, eating at regular intervals during the day, or tracking your food intake. You’ll be more likely to feel successful and to want to keep going.

Source: Psychology Today

You Are Not Responsible for Your Partner’s Feelings

Assael Romanelli wrote . . . . . . . . .

Most of us have been taught that we are responsible for our loved one’s feelings—that we need to make sure they’re not feeling sad or lonely.

Some people maintain a basic core belief that if our partner feels pain, it is our responsibility or fault, and we must fix them, cheer them up, give them a hug, protect them, and so on.

What is the problem with holding a core belief of your pain = my responsibility?

The main consequence of such a core belief is that it keeps you reactive in your intimate relationships. Every time your partner shares something difficult or painful, you immediately get tense and feel that you need to do something about it.

You stop listening from a comfortable, open position because once you start hearing your partner’s pain, you immediately start thinking, “What did I do this time? What do I need to do now? How much effort and energy will I have to invest in cheering them up or asking for forgiveness?” Over time, such mental effort can lead you to start avoiding your partner, since you already have enough on your plate.

Such automatic reactivity keeps you in a symbiotic relationship, where both partners are wary of sharing the pain or burdening their partner, and one’s difficulties are experienced as a huge emotional burden on the partner.

Slowly the relationship becomes a dangerous place where you don’t want to share your pain in order not to hurt your partner (because your pain = their problem). In such symbiotic relationships, if one is hurting, the other must sympathize with that pain as proof for their love; if one is happy, the other should also be happy. This dynamic keeps the relationship poorly differentiated.

Consequently, both partners stop sharing their truth. They start avoiding sensitive topics, constructive feedback, frustrations, and conflictual tensions in the relationship in order to avoid hurting each other. Such avoidance is detrimental because it lowers the authenticity, intimacy, and vulnerability of the relationship.

You are not responsible for the way your partner feels.

As Lori Gordon writes, you might be a factor in their life that influences their experience, but you cannot take responsibility for their emotional happiness. That does not mean being oblivious to their hurt. Instead, find a way to hold on to yourself as your loved one is meeting their personal woes.

Meeting yourself in the presence of the other is Schnarsh’s definition of intimacy. Feeling and dealing with your pain directly builds character, integrity, self-respect, and confidence. So don’t rob your partner of a chance to grow. You don’t have to react in a certain way to every expression of emotion from them. Just let them meet themselves.

I once worked with a symbiotic couple where it was clear that the husband could not deal with his wife’s anger toward him, so he constantly belittled her pain by not listening or being sarcastic. In our sessions, we discovered that both of them shared the core belief that your pain = my fault.

After illuminating their core belief, he said that he’s now ready to really hear his partner’s pain. I asked him how much he really wants to hear her from 1 (not really interested) to 10 (dying to hear her laments). He immediately said 8. That number felt too high for the reality of their current symbiotic avoidance of pain.

I invited him to pause, imagine he drank the truth serum, and take a chance and share what the real number is. He worryingly scanned his wife’s face and whispered, “Well, actually, 2 out of 10.”

To his surprise, his wife wasn’t insulted but rather released a deep, spontaneous laugh. She shared that she felt it was a 2 when he said his original 8, and she was actually glad that he admitted openly what she (and I) clearly sensed.

At that instant, they both experienced a novel moment of a differentiated relationship—he shared his honest pain, in the shape of avoidance, and she was able to “let it land,” because he didn’t try to censor himself to protect her.

Such a process helps couples cut the symbiotic umbilical cord between them and dare to share their pain honestly, with no avoidance or censorship, and even without the need to solve or protect their spouse.

So now let us examine the different steps you can take to soften the symbiotic reactivity of your intimate relationships and allow your partner to share their aching openly.

1. Reflect to examine if you hold a core belief that you are responsible for your partner’s feelings, or that their pain is your responsibility, or that it is your responsibility to keep your partner happy at all times. See what you gain and what you lose from trusting in such a core belief.

2. If you would like to soften (or change) this core belief, share this article with your loved one, so you have a common language and understanding, and set a time to have a mindful, calm talk.

3. When talking, try sharing your pain, criticism, frustration, or even anger at your partner slowly, in small chunks, pausing to let it be absorbed and digested by your partner.

4. Remind your partner to “hold on to themselves”: They do not need to react to what you are sharing. Remind them just to listen and let it land in their body. They do not need to apologize, fix, or encourage you.

5. If they start getting reactive, defensive, or aggressive, take a breath and/or break. If needed, you can always come back to this topic later.

6. Sometimes sharing the pain in this new, differentiated way, which is not a jab or an attack in the heat of a fight, can still lead to a certain distance, coldness, or even a rupture. That is unavoidable and natural. Remember to breathe and to stay open and loving toward your partner. Remind yourself and them that you are doing this in order to deepen the relationship. If you can stay grounded and not retreat and apologize for what you just said, over time your partner may return to this topic with a question or may wish to share his or her own hurt on this matter.

This process can lead you to a more aware partnership, which is less reactive and symbiotic and more authentic and differentiated. Over time, a sense of freedom will arise in the relationship, and you will feel freer to share what you feel.

You will discover a renewed appreciation toward your partner because they are willing and strong enough to meet you and your pain without reacting or crumbling. With time, such a process will slowly rewire your brain and help you internalize that you cannot prevent your partner from feeling pain.

So if you don’t want to keep your partner and your loved ones undifferentiated, and if you want to grow, then remember that you are not responsible for their feelings. Their pain is their pain, and your pain is your pain.

In closing, I offer this rephrasing: “To each his own pain.”

Source: Psychology Today

Opinion: Against Cheerfulness

Mariana Alessandri wrote . . . . . . . . .

I once ended up at a Boy Scout ceremony in the northeast United States, where I inhaled the American spirit unfiltered. The boys’ uniforms had Stars-and-Stripes patches sewn on next to their badges. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance in front of an oversize US flag, and we prayed to America’s vague God, giving thanks for this and that, and asking for some strength or protection. The boys recited their Scout Law: to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, and… cheerful.

As a philosopher influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, I’d always imagined cheerfulness was a sickly child, born nine months after a Tinder date between Stoicism and Christianity. But that night I learned that cheerfulness was a British orphan smuggled into the US in the early 20th century, and was now making a living spreading itself all over contemporary American kitsch: throw pillows, coffee mugs and slippers. Cheerfulness has planted deep roots in US soil, and the poor Boy Scouts are made to believe she’s a virtue.

The Ancient Greeks named four virtues: temperance, wisdom, courage and justice. Aristotle added more, but cheerfulness wasn’t one of them. The Greek philosophers didn’t seem to care about how we felt compared with how we acted. Aristotle said that we would ideally feel good while acting good, but he didn’t consider pleasure necessary for beautiful action. Acting virtuously meant steering clear of excess and deficiency. But in order to reach his ‘mean’, we need to jettison every action that misses the mark. Most of the time, the mean is incredibly tough to find, but if it came down to a choice between feeling good while acting badly or feeling badly while acting good, Aristotle said to choose good behaviour. He understood that feelings are hard to control, sometimes impossible, but he also knew that positive feelings like to hang around virtuous actions. While we’re waiting for the good feelings to show up, he asked us to get to work on temperance, wisdom, courage and justice. But he never said anything about smiling through it.

The Roman Stoics inched closer to prescribing cheerfulness when they decided that we should pay attention to our feelings. They believed that we could control our attitudes. But even they didn’t champion cheerfulness, despite the American translators who try to poison them with it. For example, Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations, advised himself to be εὔνους, literally ‘good-minded’. This was translated into English as ‘good-natured’ by Francis Hutcheson and James Moore in 1742 in Scotland, and then as ‘benevolence’ by the British translator George Long in 1862, before returning to ‘good-natured’ in 1916 under the influence of another British translator, C R Haines. In 2003, Gregory Hays, from Indianapolis, translated εὔνους as ‘cheerfulness’. Maybe Hays was a boy scout. Or Christian. Or both.

To the Stoic list of virtues, the Christians added faith, hope and love. These are a gift from God, unlike patience and justice, which can be achieved on our own. Faith is the belief that with God all things are possible; hope is risking that belief in real time; and love is willing to be wrong about it. These three add an undeniably emotional element to the mix of virtues, but even Jesus didn’t ask for cheer. The closest he got was telling the disciples not to look depressed when they fasted. Paul got even closer when he declared that ‘God loves a cheerful giver’. But the original Greek still sounds more like ‘God loves it when you give without needing to be persuaded’ than like the Boy Scout definition of cheerfulness. But Paul also said that Christians should ‘do everything without grumbling and arguing’. The pivot from action to attitude started by the Stoics and egged on by the Christians set the historical stage for Scout Law in the US.

In 1908, the British Lieutenant-General Robert Baden-Powell created (what would become) the worldwide Boy Scouts movement. He intended to instil good old Christian values into good old British boys. Cheerfulness and other newborn virtues soon circled the globe, hitting the US in 1916. Eventually, the Boy Scouts Association in the UK dropped it: they don’t need to be cheerful any more, according to their Scout Law, even though it was their idea. The lifting of mandatory cheerfulness reflects contemporary British culture, just as the policing of cheerfulness in the US reflects ours.

The Boy Scouts of America associate cheerfulness with positivity: a Scout should ‘look for the bright side of life. Cheerfully do tasks that come your way. Try to help others be happy.’ Instead of grumbling while he toils, a cheerful Boy Scout will cultivate a joyful attitude. He will ‘jump at opportunities’ that others won’t, and is more likely to find difficult tasks more enjoyable than others. Finally, a good Boy Scout believes that cheerfulness is infectious and can spread to those around him.

It’s no surprise that cheerfulness was embraced not only by Boy Scouts but by the greater American culture too: the US is a melting pot of Christianity, Stoicism, cognitive behavioural therapy, capitalism and Buddhism, all of which hold, to varying degrees, that we are responsible for our attitudes and, ultimately, for our happiness. A quick browse through the self-help section of any US bookstore announces that lots of Americans are desperate to bootstrap their way to the bright side. Texts on embracing life’s miserable condition don’t exactly fly off the shelves. However, books on how optimism can be learned make millionaires out of their authors. They tell us that the key to happiness is positivity, and that the key to positivity is cheerfulness. The aorta of the US economy pumps out optimism, positivity and cheerfulness while various veins carry back US dollars naively invested in schemes designed to get rich quick, emotionally speaking.

Socrates was right in the Symposium when he said that we are attracted to what we are not, and the psychologists behind production and marketing know better than we do the ubiquity of US anxiety, depression and restlessness. Many of us who might not be cheerful by nature get pressured to smile by the reigning notion that we alone are responsible for our happiness. Window-shop in any middle-class city and you will discover a consumer culture desperate to live up to the adage ‘Think like a proton: always positive!’ Homeware stores are filled with reminders of how happy we could be if only we’d listen to our kitschy teacups with printed pseudo-philosophical adages such as ‘Continuous cheerfulness is a sign of wisdom,’ except that teacups don’t know the first thing about cheerfulness or wisdom, or whether they relate to happiness. Look at Denmark: the Danish are not particularly cheerful but, if the statistics are to be believed, they are happier than most. I’ve been to Denmark, and it’s not defiled with messages to ‘Keep calm and focus on cheerfulness.’

If you have to tell someone to be cheerful, they aren’t feeling it. Cheerfulness spontaneously felt and freely given is brilliant, but it is no more virtuous than acting courageously when one isn’t scared. Aristotle insisted that virtuous action be independent of, and sometimes contrary to, our feelings. In other words, virtuous action must be deliberate to count as virtue.

Baden-Powell knew this, and in 1908 he reminded his Boy Scouts that, when something annoying happens:

you should force yourself to smile at once and then whistle a tune, and you will be all right. A scout goes about with a smile on and whistling. It cheers him and cheers other people, especially in time of danger, for he keeps it up then all the same.
Baden-Powell’s words had the power to coerce a generation of boys to pretend that life is good when it isn’t. Cheerfulness advocates still find virtue in this charade. America’s unchecked faith in cheer abounds in our proverbs: ‘You catch more flies with honey,’ ‘Think happy thoughts,’ ‘Life is good,’ ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ and ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ are all cheer-filled variations on Baden-Powell’s theme of forced bright-sidedness. ‘Minnesota nice’ captures the twisted Midwestern dedication to white-knuckling a positive attitude.

There is a fundamental difference between practising the Greek virtues of patience, justice or courage, and practising the American virtue of cheerfulness, which borders on psychosis. Patience asks us to change our behaviour, but it neither asks us to feel differently nor to pretend to feel differently. Granted, Aristotle believed that practising patience over a length of time would naturally make us more patient, but pretence was never part of the deal. You can act patient while feeling impatient, and it’s no lie. But when you fake cheerfulness, you are telling someone else that you feel fine when you don’t. This encourages the most maddening American T-shirts and aprons that say: ‘Smile! Happiness looks gorgeous on you!’

Cheerfulness conceived as a virtue – à la Boy Scout Law – instead of a spontaneous feeling is a pretence. It’s not an action but it is an act. Whistling while you work might be worth defending, but forcing yourself to smile when you don’t feel like it amounts to lying to the people around you. ‘Fake it till you make it’ has brutal consequences when applied to the emotions. When conceived as the attempt to trick others into thinking that you feel cheery, cheerfulness is far from a virtue. It’s a vice. It falls on the deficiency end of the spectrum of trust. Too much trust is called naïveté, and is a vice of excess. But cheerfulness is just as bad. It confesses: I don’t trust you with my darkest feelings; I don’t think you are responsible enough to handle my inner life. Forced cheerfulness is a denial of life. All experiences taste different, and if we force a smile through the sour ones, we are not living honestly. We might want to lock out certain people from our fragile hearts, but cheerfulness is an equal-opportunity vice; it keeps even my loved ones out of reach. Whoever gets our cheery selves does not get our true selves.

Cheerfulness also unwittingly cancels out the Christian virtue of faith. It says: you can’t handle the expression of my feelings, and I deny you the chance to prove me right. Since it is built on the certainty that others will disappoint, cheerfulness lacks faith. It denies possibility. In real life, others probably will disappoint us. If we show them what we are really feeling, they will probably screw it up. But given the emphasis on cheerfulness in the US, as etched into Boy Scout Law, it’s no wonder that they screw it up. Still, a botched attempt at compassion is better than being denied the chance to fail. Here’s an anti-cheerful but virtuous attitude: expect others to fail but give them the chance. Also, recognise when someone is giving you a chance to fail them. Vulnerability is a risk and a gift.

This newest virtue could be given the old name of honesty. Instead of a smile, if we could find it in ourselves to wear our natural expression – the one that the US TV personality Mister Fred Rogers called the ‘best kind of expression’ – we would be better for it. Wearing our natural expression would be a sign that we are saying yes instead of no to life’s kumquats, to sadness, anxiety, illness, grief, depression, loneliness and anger, among other so-called ‘negative’ emotions. These affirmations of life’s sourness might just make frowning – or wincing, or crying – easier. In turn, these newly sanctioned expressions of negativity might make talking easier, honestly discussing hardships. Our newly vulnerable selves would get to see the corresponding vulnerabilities of our close and distant neighbours. This exchange of fragility could possibly be the key to empathy. If we agreed to stop wasting emotional energy masking our disappointments with cheer, then we’d be free to cue into other people’s sadness. The Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno saw expressions of pain exchanged between two people as the great equaliser of humankind. He believed that deeper connections could be made in wreckage than prosperity.

But deep connections come at a cost. Cheerfulness isn’t just an American phenomenon, but it is uniquely built into the nation’s identity as invincible, and it’s not clear that we are ready to part with it yet. To become flesh-and-bone, Americans would first have to give up the idea that happiness is a matter of attitude. This challenges not only the history of the Boy Scouts but, more broadly, the reigning image of the self-made American, the single individual who keeps his chin up and never lets them see him sweat. This narrative was vital in birthing the US and then making it the superpower it is today.

Giving up a commitment to cheerfulness would mean risking judgment for being ordinary, human, mortal. If, however, we could learn to share in the misery of others without trying to cheer them up and send them packing, and if they could do the same for us, then we’d have a shot at true fraternity, the kind that Aristotle prescribed when he said we should live with our friends. The kind that the Boy Scouts crave, and that Baden-Powell thought he was cultivating when he prescribed cheerfulness. Profound human connection and communion – in other words, love – has no use for forced cheer, and is often sabotaged by false faces. If we want to love better and seek true happiness and friendship, it’s time to cultivate honesty instead of cheer.

Source: aeon

6 Reasons Why We Enjoy Listening to Sad Music

Shahram Heshmat wrote . . . . . . . . .

Sadness is a primary emotion that is expressed and perceived equally across cultures. Basic emotions (e.g., anger, happiness, and sadness) are innate and universal. Understanding basic emotions in music is very quick and does not require musical training. For instance, hearing a sad cello performance may induce a genuine state of sadness in a listener.

The most important musical cues for the expression of sadness in Western music include lower overall pitch, slower tempo, use of the minor mode, dull and dark timbres, and less energetic execution (Juslin, 2013). Sadness is generally seen as a negative emotion. But we tend to find it pleasurable in an aesthetic context (known as the paradox of enjoying sad music). What is the nature of the pleasure that people experience from listening to sad music? Accumulated evidence suggests that pleasure in response to sad music is related to a combination of the following factors (Eerola, et al., 2018; Sachs et al 2015).

1. Nostalgia. Sad music is a powerful trigger for nostalgic memories of foregone times. Such reflective revisiting of nostalgic memories may enhance the mood, especially if the memories are related to pivotal and meaningful moments in life (i.e., high school, or college). We enjoy the sweetness of these memories via vivid imaginations. There is some pleasure felt in recollecting the good times, as well as sadness from missing them.

2. Vicarious emotion. Music generates vicarious (substitute) emotions in listeners without real-life implications. Music helps to channel one’s frustration or purge (catharsis) negative emotions (anger and sadness). When we listen to sad music (or watch a sad film), we are disconnected from any real threat or danger that the music (or movie) represents. When we cry at the beauty of sad music, we experience a profound aspect of our emotional selves (Kawakami, et al., 2013).

3. Prolactin. At the biological level, sad music is linked to the hormone prolactin (associated with crying), a chemical that helps to curb grief (Huron, 2011). Sad music tricks the brain into engaging a normal, compensatory response, i.e., the release of prolactin. In the absence of a traumatic event, the body is left with a pleasurable mix of opiates with nowhere else to go. Prolactin produces feelings of calmness to counteract mental pain.

4. Empathy. Empathy plays a significant role in the enjoyment of sad music. Empathy can be broadly defined as a process by which we can come to understand and feel what another person is experiencing. Expressions of sadness and grief are likely to rouse support and help in others. Similarly, listening to sad music may evoke an empathic concern in those with a strong disposition to empathy.

5. Mood regulation. Sad music produces psychological benefits via mood regulation. Sad music enables the listener to disengage from distressing situations (breakup, death, etc.) and focus instead on the beauty of the music. Further, lyrics that resonate with the listener’s personal experience can give voice to feelings or experiences that one might not be able to express oneself.

6. An imaginary friend. Music has the ability to provide company and comfort. People tend to listen to sad music more often when they are in emotional distress or feeling lonely, or when they are in introspective moods. Sad music can be experienced as an imaginary friend who provides support and empathy after the experience of a social loss. The listeners enjoy the mere presence of a virtual person, represented by the music, who is in the same mood and can help cope with sad feelings.

In short, music has the proven ability to affect emotions, mood, memory, and attention. The emotional power of music is one of the main motivations of people who devote so much time, energy and money to it (Juslin, 2013). The ability of music to express emotions is also the reason for its application in music therapy. The knowledge about ways in which sad music becomes enjoyable can inform existing music therapy practices for mood disorders. The primary way by which music listening affects us is via changes in stress response. For example, in one study, participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. Music is arguably less expensive than drugs, is easier on the body, and doesn’t have side effects (Finn & Fancourt, 2018).

Source: Psychology Today